Leadership: Regardless of the size of business, the issues are often the same it’s just the scale that differs

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’m not alone when it comes to dealing with what can often feel like substantial business challenges. It has also become clear to me that regardless of the size or type of business, the issues faced by business leaders today are remarkably similar. It’s usually just the scale that differs.

For me, accepting I don’t have all the answers was an important first step. The second, was to accept that I don’t know what I don’t know and assemble a support network that can fill the gaps in my knowledge and provide access to perspectives other than my own.

The third was to create order from the dis-order that can invade your professional life by installing an agenda, purpose and priorities to ensure I don’t meander off course.  But, just as importantly, I accept there are things that are simply out of my control and to be at peace with knowing I’m doing all I can to lead my team and the business.

For instance, business leaders and executives are currently grappling with flexible working arrangements, talent acquisition, salary expectations, productivity values and staff retention and that is just within the people and HR area of operating a successful business.

This is set against a backdrop of events that are completely out of a business leader’s control – Covid, floods and war in the Ukraine, petrol prices, potential rising interest rates and other inflationary pressures as well as a looming election. The latter often results in Australian businesses pausing their activity which in turn creates a raft of economic impacts, until they have an outcome.

Staff retention is currently difficult and will continue to be so for some time. The great resignation has been coined for a reason. Human resources and industrial relations have had to adjust and up their game to not only remain abreast of staffing issues, but get ahead of them.

Policies around Covid, flexible working arrangements, competitive salaries, compelling employment conditions and the practical application of them is difficult to navigate, yet the success of these policies can directly impact staff retention and acquisition.

As a lawyer and business leader, I can attest to the value of ensuring your workplace policies and procedures are in sync with current and emerging employment conditions.

Equally, it’s imperative to ensure your employment contracts strike the right balance and protect your rights as an employer while providing the remuneration and certainty craved by candidates you wish to attract and engage.

Suffice to say there’s a lot, too much in fact, for any business leader to singlehandedly address on their own.

Relying solely on your own devices is not the solution.  Accept that you don’t know it all.

Get a mentor, or several.

Mentors come in all shapes and they are more available than you think.

For me personally, my mentors and sounding boards can range from close friends who own businesses and are happy to discuss issues informally over a few beers to a formal advisory board of peers. The latter relates to a more significant enterprises, and in my case, allows me to bend their ears each month on industry specific matters so I can benefit from their vast experience.

While sharing business insights is often the reason for seeking a mentor, perhaps the greatest benefit is engaging with someone with lived-experience who understands, guides and empathises but won’t accept a lack of accountability from yourself and your management team.

Potential mentors and sounding boards may include your lawyer, accountant, other C-Suite executives themselves and financial advisers. Each has access to a diversity of personal and client circumstances that can provide insight and opportunity for organising your thoughts, forming strategy and generally benefiting from the personal support and professional reassurance.

Once you’ve accepted your limitations and found your mentors, instigating a support framework for the big issues is just an important.

Wearing my lawyer hat, implementing retainers for specialised advice and services you can’t afford to have inhouse, is an investment that pays dividends.

For example, all medium sized businesses need some form of regular legal advice to deal with staff and employment law, contracts, litigation, property and premises, contractual terms, finance and dispute resolution matters. Yet there’s a general avoidance of lawyers until there’s a problem. Usually by then the situation has escalated and the solution becomes significantly more complex and costly than if it had been avoided in the first place or addressed early.

Implementing a legal or other specialist service retainer means an executive can pick up the phone at any time and ask the “what-if” question. Problem mitigation is the desired outcome, and early intervention is far less disruptive and expensive than having to react once there is an issue. The nature of an annual retainer paid as monthly instalments also smooths out the impact of lump sum professional serivces fees on your cashflow.

However, my point is this: to be an effective leader you need to establish a support system that provides perspective, access to information and the wisdom of others.

With support you’ll lead with confidence especially in context of the complex and unprecedented matters that we’ve all had to deal with over the last couple of years and that look set to continue for a while longer.

To learn more about Zac Herps click here. For legal advice and support for business leaders and overcoming executive dis-order please call +61 (0) 7 3007 2080 or email contact@executivestrategies.com.au

Executive Strategies is a specialised information hub for executives and senior managers who may have founded their own business or who work for growing private, ASX listed companies or government businesses. Its purpose is to provide access to specialist advisers and information that addresses the often-complex issues affecting their personal prosperity.

The information in this article is intended only to provide a general overview and has not been prepared with a view to any particular situation or set of circumstances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. While we attempt to ensure the information is current and accurate, we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information in this blog as it may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.


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